If you followed along throughout the 2019 cross-country season, you heard the Loras College women’s cross country team placed third at the NCAA Division III Central Region Championship, the highest finish in program history. Audrey Miller (’19) and Kassie Rosenbum (’22) raced their way to the NCAA Division III National Championship, where both earned All-America honors, marking the second time the Duhawks have had two All-Americans in the same season. It was one of the most memorable seasons for head coach Bob Schultz (MA ’94) in terms of athletic accolades in his 15 years at the helm, but there was one more achievement to add to the list: elite academic honors.
The Duhawks have a longstanding record of academic excellence, earning United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Scholar All-America standards every year since the inception of the award and saw Miller earn CoSIDA Third Team Academic All-America honors in 2017 as a sophomore. This fall, the women’s cross country team also led the American Rivers Conference (A-R-C) in All-Academic honorees in the conference with 12 women earning a 3.5 or higher and Molly MacDuff (’20) became a three-time recipient. The women once again excelled in the classroom in the fall semester, posting a team grade point average (GPA) of 3.65, the highest cumulative GPA for the team in Schultz’s tenure.
And it did not stop there: the Duhawks also had 18 women post a 3.5 grade point average (GPA) or higher, the most Schultz has had in his career, and six individuals finished the semester with a perfect 4.0, including Maeve Dunaway (’20), Camryn Reeg (’22) and Abigail Landwehr (’23).
When you ask Schultz about his team’s academic achievements, he smiles from ear to ear. Success is a catalyst for the program’s culture.
“The team sets goals at the start of the season and having a high team GPA is always one of them. They only establish four goals, so to have an academic focus be one of them is telling of who they are as a group,” said Schultz. “Everyone talks about how, in Division III, the main purpose is education. Our team’s GPA and their commitment to their academics shows that.”
For Schultz, the academic recognition is important across the school, conference, and national level.
“There is a definite correlation between our top-runners also being our top-academic achievers, but we only run seven in a race and that limits who gets a varsity spot,” said Schultz. “A majority of teams have more people who can run in a race and I think it’s important that there are awards from the USTFCCCA and the NCAA to honor those students who don’t always get the recognition.”
“My freshman year, we wanted to achieve as 3.4 GPA as a team, but we’ve raised the expectations every year because we know we can achieve it,” said Dunaway. “We want to achieve excellence as a team and I think Bob helps us establish those priorities from the time we start as freshmen that makes you want to do better.”
Those priorities are a hierarchy Schultz sets at the start of the season, asking his student-athletes to put their faith first, then family, then academics, and last but not least, cross country. But having cross country at the end of the list does not diminish its importance, as the team has demonstrated season after season.
“A 3.65 would be a remarkable achievement for an individual student-athlete, but to have a group of nearly 30 student-athletes post an overall GPA of this caliber is impressive,” said Reeg. “This was also a big year for us athletically. Last year was a rebuilding year for us athletically and we had a large group of freshmen. This year, we rallied behind our goals—we knew we could achieve them. There’s no point in setting goals if you don’t believe in them and we knew that by the end of the season, we could execute our plan to meet those goals. And we did.”
Now with the track and field season underway, it is time for the team to shift its focus to new competitors, new marks, and a new semester. “Running is very applicable to life—sometimes you have to work hard when you don’t want to and some days, you have to put in more work than you did the day before,” said Landwehr. “I think that desire to do well is there naturally for us through our sport. The upperclassmen showed that this season as well: we have that potential to go to the national championship and place as a team. Now, I want to work even more towards that goal because I know it’s so close.”